Shed Those Unhealthy Thoughts

I’m going to learn Spanish. My plan is to start by berating myself as often as possible for not already speaking Spanish. I’m going to hang up pictures of people who speak Spanish and every time I look at them I’m going to tell myself how much better they are than I am. As I learn Spanish I’ll constantly focus on the things that are difficult for me and use that inner voice that is now trained to berate me at every possible opportunity to remind me that I’m not good enough at speaking Spanish and probably never will be.

Sound like a good plan? How do you think that’s going to go?

Then why do we do that when we try to get healthier?

If you read this blog regularly then you know that Health at Every Size is my thing. My path to health is to practice healthy habits and not pay attention to the scale. I chose this for a lot of reasons that I outlined here already. But I understand that there are a lot of people who want to try to change the size and shape of their bodies and I respect that choice. This isn’t about whose is right or wrong, it’s actually about our shared experience.

Consider that if you want your body to be smaller, or healthier, or stronger, or more flexible, or whatever, you could start by appreciating where you are now.  I’m guessing that your heart is beating and you are breathing.  That’s a nice place to start. Thank your body for that, appreciate it for a minute. You don’t even have ask, your body just does that for you all day every day.

If you want to be stronger, how about starting by appreciating the strength that you have now.  Can you lift a gallon of milk?  Great!  Did you just move up from 5lb to 10lb dumbells?  Kick ass!  Now what do you want to do?

Maybe stop comparing yourself to other people.  How is this helpful? Your body is your own, nobody else has a body that’s exactly like yours.  That, in and of itself, is incredible.  We’re not cookie-cutter chairs from Ikea, we are completely unique.  One of a kind.  I’m staring to sound a little bit “after school special” right now but seriously, so many things in the world are mass produced and you are a complete original.  That’s something that truly is special and worthy of appreciation.

Notice the messages that can seep into your subconscious.  When you started to read the title of this post did you automatically think I was going to say “Shed those unhealthy pounds”?  That’s not accidental.  The messages that come at us about our bodies are often crafted to create fear and self-loathing.  Then the message creator will try to make us believe that buying their product will cure the fear and self-loathing that they created.  If someone is trying to make you feel bad about yourself, ask yourself if they are trying to sell you something (or just trying to put you down to feel better about themselves) and then you can make your decisions consciously.

I believe that success breeds success so anytime I have any little bit of success I will not hesitate to do a butt shaking happy dance. If I accomplished this thing or that thing, then it makes it that much easier to tackle the next goal on my path.  When I fail, I remind myself that it’s a temporary state and promptly learn the lesson and forget about the rest as soon as possible. That works so much better for me than hating myself and reminding myself about what I haven’t accomplished yet.

Does anybody remember the movie Cool Runnings?  It was based on the first Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team. In it one of the characters is asked what Cool Runnings means and he says that it means “Peace be the journey”.  Since they are a bobsled team I take that not to mean that things will be smooth, slow and easy, but that you can still be at peace through the difficult parts.  Anytime we want to change or improve it involves a journey, there’s no getting around that.  You can be happy or miserable on the way, that’s your choice.  For me it’s definitely Cool Runnings!

12 thoughts on “Shed Those Unhealthy Thoughts

  1. Lovely post…. be gentle with one’s self and remember to give yourself permission to be where you are, when you are.

  2. Yup, instead of heavy duty, try putting yourself on the gentle cycle. You’ll last longer and your colors will stay brighter 😀

    1. Ok, Jane, I think I am going to steal that and print it out to put up somewhere in my home. That statement is as close to perfection as I can think of.

  3. Are you actually going to try and learn Spanish? Because hanging up pictures of say, Spanish authors you want to read or Spanish movie stars isn’t a bad way to remind yourself to study… seeing all the Spanish literature on my shelves I can’t really read yet drives me to study more.

    Time spent thinking about how superior other people are or how inferior yourself is at something or in some way… is time wasted that could be spent on improving skills (or health or fitness or whatever someone is wanting to achieve)

    I seem to remember reading about an article in the New York Time’s about how more self-compassionate people (kind to themselves) lost weight more successfully & had less anxiety and depression. It’s ironic that almost everyone pushes being hard on yourself about your body and self when apparently it’s the exact opposite mindset that helps improve health and stick to goals. [Not that I connect weightloss w/ health; the NYT article does but the point was that self-compassionate people are better at sticking to health plans they engage in, because of not tearing into themselves over every little slip-up) ]

  4. As usual another post to treasure and think about. But in your ‘after school special’ paragraph, it was Mr. Rogers’ voice in my head. 🙂

  5. A thousand times YES to this! Not only do we need to be mindful of respecting other’s choices, but we also need to be mindful of respecting ourselves as well. Thank you!

  6. This post is definitely going onto my ‘Like’ list.

    We live in a culture that can be ludicrously competitive, so your advice is actually crucial. Appreciate every little success, in itself and as a stepping stone, and realize you are worth something in and of yourself because you’re you and there’s no one like you.

  7. Another great post, :). Interesting how these principles seem so ridiculous when applied to a language, but seems reasonable when applied to a narrow definition of health/size/beauty. Regardless of what one’s views may be, how can you argue with loving yourself and just going from there?
    And Cool Runnings is set in my hometown, so I can deny a good Calgary shout-out!

  8. Calgarians represent!

    I’d forgotten about the movie, but remember very well the ’88 Winter Olympics and how the Jamaican Bobsled team won everyone’s hearts – I got a little weepy at that point in the post. They were winners just by having the cheerful audacity to take part!


  9. Another way that Cool Runnings relates to the topic of your post… In the movie when they first get to the Olympics they’re just trying to imitate and be just like the Swiss team, and it doesn’t work so well. Then they realize that they can’t just copy someone else’s style – they need to be their own, Jamaican, team.

    Same thing with being healthy or wanting to lose weight – you can’t just focus on wishing you were someone else, you have to find what you enjoy and do what works for you.

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